Local theater now offers dinner and a movie option
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
The Plaza Theater in downtown Burlington will launch expanded food service this weekend with a new dinner and a movie promotion.
The three-week-long promotion catches a ride on a growing trend in the business and is something Plaza owner Shad Branen hopes to grow into a thriving aspect of the theater’s fare.
“We aren’t trying to be a restaurant – it’s more of the dinner and a movie concept,” Branen said. But, he notes, he’s looking to develop a more upscale menu than most people associate with theaters.
“I didn’t want this to be just a pizza and burger joint,” he said.
To oversee the expanded food service, Branen brought in Pat Clark, who is familiar to many in Burlington as the owner and operator of the former Daily Brew coffeehouse in downtown Burlington. He also consulted with chef Greg Anagnos of Medusa Grill and Bistro in Lake Geneva to help develop the menu.
For each of the next three weekends (Sept. 16-Oct. 1) the theater will offer Fish Fridays and Sampler Saturdays. The meals are included as part of a $15 ticket for any of the shows starting between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on the theater’s four screens.
The theater now also offers beer and wine, which is sold from the kitchen area at the rear of the theater. The traditional concessions area – featuring popcorn, soda and candy – remains at the front.
The Friday menu includes baked cod Louie with new potatoes and a side salad. The fish features a secret sauce developed by Anagnos, according to Clark.
Saturdays feature sample servings of cheese and fruit kabobs, Panini sandwiches, pita pizza or cod Louie and the theater’s signature Belgian waffle with gelato or a fresh-baked cookie.
“We’re going to focus on one thing at a time,” Clark said Tuesday. “The last few weeks we’ve put out samples of the food and we’ve gotten good feedback.”
The dinner and a movie promotion will serve as a shakedown period of sorts for the theater’s food service and may determine which direction it takes in the future, said Branen, who’s owned the Plaza for a little more than a year.
“Are we going to be pizza and sandwiches or more full dinners?” he said. “I’d like to be a combination of the two.”
Eventually, he hopes to see the theater offer full dinners in the $10-$12 range and appetizers in the $3-$4 range.
The reception of the theater-going public will likely determine the final menu.
“What I’ve seen of other theaters doing this is that it tends to get pricey,” he said, noting that his goal is to keep the operation family- and wallet-friendly.
What also remains to be finalized are the options by which patrons order the food and have it delivered. Initially they’ll have the option of ordering the food on their way into the theater and taking it with them (if it’s ready) or having it delivered to their seats.
“It’s really not as distracting as one might think,” Branen said of the food delivery. “But we don’t want to disturb others in the theater, so we’ll just experiment with that until we come up with a process that works best.”
Branen plans to install new seating in all four theaters that will accommodate food trays. However, that won’t be complete until late this year.
He also plans to add pub tables in the hallway adjacent to the kitchen.
Eventually, Branen said, he hopes people are comfortable gathering there before movies or lingering afterward to enjoy an appetizer and a glass of wine or beer.
“It’s a family environment – we’re not a bar. We’ll be very conscious and diligent in serving wine and beer,” he said, likening the theater to a bowling alley where all ages are able to congregate.
In the future, Branen and Clark may consider opening a coffee shop in the theater.
“I still own the Daily Brew name,” Clark said.